My Projects

October 18, 2006 126 comments so far

How to Start a Project

Successful projects need an explicit project start - some kind of kick-off meeting or workshop where you decide and communicate the project's goals, who is responsible for what, etc. If there is no "formal" project start you will see that things will get fuzzy pretty fast...

Let's think again about what a project is: You might remember that we defined that a project requires a start date in order that it can be called a project. Similarly, you could say that a project needs a kick-off meeting or a start workshop in order to work, or in other words, to really get off the ground. The main reason behind this is that even though you might know what you want to achieve within your project, your team members may not (yet): You have to explicitly communicate these facts to your team.

The people you are going to work with need at least to know what you are up to (the goals of the project), who will be doing what (responsibilities and roles) and how project administration and controlling will work. In addition, if the goals are not clear enough you might also want to specify a number of "not-goals", i.e., things you specifically do not want to be done within the scope of the project.

When deciding on overall responsibilities you should not forget that this is often more about leadership, communication, organizational skills and trust rather than about technical competency. Regarding project administration and controlling methods, it is important that you choose the "right" method for your organization/project size and type: This is often called "adaptive project management".

It is especially important that the project management methods you choose are not oversized for your project: The people working with you need to understand why they have to do the things they are required to do. Otherwise, they will work against you and the methods you chose, because they think that the methods do not make sense and that they are not really needed. On the others side, if everyone on the team understands the methods and why they are needed, your team members will probably even make suggestions during the project on how the process you have chosen can be improved.

Finally, an explicit kick-off meeting or start workshop makes sense in order to really "rally the troops", i.e., it can be used to motivate people and to formally give the "Go" for the project. Or, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise would say it: "Engage!"